Better Food Stories: Burlap & Barrel

This is episode one of the Better Food Stories interview series, which includes conversations with the entrepreneurs behind some of today’s newest and most innovative food brands. 

Trekking the lush jungles of Zanzibar, a Tanzanian archipelago off the coast of East Africa, in search of exotic spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove, is something most of us will only ever dream about.

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But for Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar, the co-founders of artisanal spice company Burlap & Barrel, this is just another day at the office. The duo works directly with spice farms and cooperatives around the world to bring beautiful, unique spices to professional chefs and home cooks.

The inspiration for the company came after Frisch spent time working with nonprofits in Afghanistan.

“Our insight was that the spices in your pantry were brought to you in an antiquated and old model where they change hands about a dozen times. By the time they get to you, the flavor is gone and the farmers along the way got screwed — getting paid pennies on the dollar,” said Zohar, who, with Frisch, previously built another socially conscious food brand, Guerrilla Ice Cream. “What we’re trying to do [with Burlap & Barrel] is build a new global supply chain for spices that’s faster, fresher and more equitable.”

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Thanks to a combination of quality product, a strong social mission and grassroots approach to marketing, Burlap & Barrel has quickly grown to become a sought-after brand for Michelin chefs, food manufacturers, and natural cosmetic producers, even getting the attention of The New York Times.

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I recently sat down with Zohar to learn how he and his business partner went from idea to successful business. Some key takeaways include:

  • The importance of taking an idea and running with it.

  • Why and how you should test and validate your product before ironing out too many details.

  • How getting crystal clear on their mission made them stand out in the marketplace.

  • How telling their story every chance they get has been instrumental in their business.

Click here to listen to my entire interview with Ori Zohar. 

Adria Greenhauff